In the final segment of our three-part interview with Oakland A's Baseball Operations Analyst Farhan…
Oakland A's MLN: Winter League Updates
The Caribbean winter league season has begun and the Oakland A's have a number of players participating in the Dominican, Venezuelan and Mexican Winter Leagues.
In Mexico, pitching prospect Arnold Leon is once again competing for the Tomateros de Culiacan, the Mexican winter team that he has pitched for the last two seasons. Leon split his 2008 regular season between the High-A Stockton Ports within the A's organization and Saltillo of the Mexican Summer League. He had a 3.35 ERA and 49 strike-outs in 43 innings between the two leagues. Leon was off to a fast start for Culiacan this winter before running into trouble in his last outing. In four relief appearances, he has allowed three runs in four innings. All three of those runs came in a one-inning appearance in his last outing. He has struck-out three and walked one and allowed one homerun.
In the Dominican, there a few members of the A's organization already competing in the winter league, with more expected to join the league later in the season. Right-hander Jose Garcia, who was acquired by Oakland off of waivers from the Florida Marlins last off-season, is competing for Aguilas. Coming off of Tommy John surgery in 2007, Garcia pitched only 19 innings during the regular season this year, posting a 3.32 ERA with 20 strike-outs and four walks. He has appeared in only one game thus far this winter, allowing two runs in two-thirds of an inning.
Brad Kilby, who is one of the A's top left-handed relief prospects and a candidate to be added to the 40-man roster this off-season, is pitching for the Gigantes del Cibao this winter. Kilby has made one appearance thus far, allowing a run on two hits in two-thirds of an inning. He struck-out one. In 70 regular season innings, Kilby had a 3.47 ERA and 66 strike-outs for Triple-A Sacramento. He pitched in the Arizona Fall League last winter.
Catching prospect Anthony Recker, another candidate to be added to the A's 40-man roster this off-season, is competing for the Leones del Escogido this winter. He has gotten off to a bit of a slow start at the plate, although he drove-in three runs in his last game on Sunday. Recker has a single, a triple, a double and five RBIs in 15 at-bats. He hit .274 with 11 homers for Double-A Midland in 2008.
Two young A's farmhands – lefty Pedro Figueroa and infielder Frank Martinez – are playing for Licey this winter. Figueroa, who had 77 strike-outs in 68.2 innings for short-season Vancouver this season, has thrown 1.2 scoreless innings thus far. The 22-year-old has allowed two hits and has struck-out one. Martinez, who spent most of the season with Stockton and a few weeks with Midland, has had one at-bat (a strike-out) thus far for Licey. The 23-year-old switch-hitter hit .279 with six homers in 114 games for Stockton and .260 with a homer in 14 games with Midland this season.
In Venezuela, a number of members of the A's 40-man roster are sharpening their skills in the VWL. Roster players Jeff Baisley, Gregorio Petit, Henry Rodriguez, Carlos Gonzalez, Rajai Davis and Javier Herrera are all participating or are scheduled to participate in the winter league. In addition, non-roster players Jesus Guzman, Jesus Silva and Raul Padron are playing in the league.
Davis appeared in 113 games for the A's and the San Francisco Giants this season, mostly as a late-inning defensive replacement and pinch-runner. In 214 at-bats, he hit .243 with three homeruns and 29 stolen bases. In three games for the Caribes de Anzoategui, Davis has three hits (including a homer) in 12 at-bats. He has swiped two bags. Baisley, who made his major league debut with Oakland this past September, has two homeruns in his first four games with the Tiburones de La Guaira. He had 10 in 87 regular season minor league games.
Padron, Petit, Guzman and Herrera are teammates once again with the Leones del Caracas squad. Padron is off to a hot start at the plate, collecting five hits in 10 at-bats, including a double. All five hits came in one game. He missed the first 50 games of the regular season while serving a suspension for testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance last winter, but he returned in time to play for two league-title winning squads in Stockton and Sacramento. The left-handed hitting catcher batted .245 with four homers in 53 games. Petit made his big league debut with Oakland this season and hit .348 in 23 big league at-bats. He also won another Triple-A title ring with Sacramento. The middle infielder is batting .231 with two RBIs and three walks in four games thus far for Caracas.
Herrera is competing for Caracas this year after missing the last winter season and the first part of the 2008 regular season with hamstring problems. The toolsy outfielder went 3-4 in his last game and has four hits in 10 at-bats with two RBIs. He hit .267 with nine homeruns in 61 games with Double-A Midland this season. Guzman won a batting title with Midland this season and he has continued his hot hitting into the winter schedule. He has two homers, seven hits and nine RBIs in 19 at-bats with Caracas.
Silva appeared in only 12 games for Sacramento and Midland this season thanks to injuries and he had a 6.19 ERA. He is healthy now and has thrown 6.1 innings of shut-out baseball for the Bravos de Margarita in two starts. Silva has five strike-outs and three walks. Gonzalez and Rodriguez are expected to suit up for Zuila later this winter.
Arizona and Hawaiian League Updates
Many of the A's hitting prospects in Arizona and Hawaii are struggling at the moment. After hitting two homeruns in four at-bats on October 11, first baseman/outfielder Sean Doolittle is only one for his last 14 with six strike-outs for the Phoenix Desert Dogs at the AFL. Catcher/infielder Josh Donaldson is only two for his last 11 and he has seen his average dip to .267 for Phoenix. He is still looking for his first AFL homer. Adrian Cardenas has appeared in only six games for the Desert Dogs thus far and he is hitting .250 with seven strike-outs in 15 at-bats.
In Hawaii, Chris Carter has fallen into a slump after a strong start. Since going three-for-four with a homer on October 7, Carter is three-for-31 and he has seen his average drop to .175. Outfielder Corey Brown has fared a bit better, however. He is riding a six-game hitting streak, during which he has driven-in five runs and homered twice. Brown is batting .262 with an 804 OPS. Carter and Brown were the only two A's farmhands to cross the 30-homer threshold this season.
On the mound, A's prospects at the AFL and in Hawaii have thrown well for the most part. Andrew Bailey has allowed nine hits in 3.2 AFL innings, but he has struck-out six and hasn't walked a batter while allowing only one run. Jared Lansford and Jeff Gray have each tossed three scoreless AFL innings, while Andrew Carignan has a win and two saves in four innings for Phoenix. Sam Demel has struggled in Hawaii, however, allowing seven runs in 5.2 innings. He hasn't pitched since October 7.
Report: Ellis To Return To Oakland
According to Susan Slusser at the San Francisco Chronicle, second baseman Mark Ellis is set to return to Oakland on a two-year contract with an option for a third year. Ellis was set to be a free agent at the conclusion of the World Series. He has been a part of the A's organization since 2001, when he was acquired as part of a three-team deal involving the A's, Kansas City and Tampa. Ellis has been the A's everyday starter at second since midway through the 2002 season (save for in 2004 when he missed the entire year with a shoulder injury).
Widely regarded as one of the top defensive second basemen in baseball, Ellis has 70 career homeruns and a .265 average in six seasons with the A's. The Florida alum batted .233 with 12 homers and a career-high 14 stolen bases in 2008. He missed the last six weeks of the 2008 season with a sore right shoulder that eventually required arthroscopic surgery. That is the same shoulder that Ellis severely separated during the spring of 2004, although the current problem was not necessarily related to that injury. Many doctors believed that Ellis would never play again after the 2004 injury, but he recovered and had his best season as a pro in 2005, when he hit .316 with 13 homers in 122 games.
Ellis and third baseman Eric Chavez are the last two remaining links on the A's current roster to the A's AL West Division Championship teams in 2002 and 2003 and they are the two longest-tenured players on the team. Ellis was also an integral part of the A's AL West title team in 2006.
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